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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Auckland Library Te Paparisation

I expect Auckland's civic advocate, the NZ Herald's Brian Rudman, to pronounce his verdict on the reconstructed Auckland Central Library at some point (he's on premium content so he might already have done so without me knowing), but I was ambivalent towards the concept and especially the execution of it.

The café on the corner is long overdue. Not having eaten there I can't attest to the quality, but the use of the dead end of the building was the right thing to do. Not the right thing to do however was to have the part of the café that meets the inside of the library being a serving counter/coffee machine/kitchen area. Oh dear. The restful library now echoes with orders for lattes, the banging and clattering of the galley and all the fuss and bustle of a working kitchen. The seating area should be between the library and that centre of frantic hubbub. That is the correct interface - where people can eat, drink and read in a reading environment. What we have at the moment is not fully thought out.

The newszone area next to the café is a modest undertaking and I found it relaxing and a great addition. Watching BBC World on the big screen while perusing newspapers and magazines is a natural and comfortable activity. But, once again, this area is right next to the kitchen/barrista end of the café where breaking news is overpowered with orders for table 7. The juxtaposition is awkward.

The day it was opening (last fortnight), to give you an illustration of the mistaken direction the library seems to be heading, someone had decided to hire a hip-hop group to shred some vinyl for the peeps on the main floor. Cranking it out at full tilt they had a small group bopping around to their latest single. I couldn't hear the BBC at all at this stage. One of the band emplored them to "make some noise!" before parenthetically inquiring to his mate, "if that's all right in a library." They played Brubeck's Take 5 in the interim so I wasn't entirely outraged - but c'mon! Turning the library into a venue for very loud music is totally inappropriate. It was perhaps well intentioned but spoke volumes, very loud volumes, about a misguided direction.

Not having time to venture upstairs I understand from my music officianado flatmate that there are now giant plasma screens all over the show. In the newszone I can understand it - everywhere is a distracting overkill. He said that in the music area they had the sound on from the commercial music station they were playing. This doesn't have to be a problem, but the ads were left on. Loud ads for plasma screens he recalls. How inappropriate.

A library has traditionally been, and ought to be, a type of haven for concentration, silent appreciation and study. By filling our space with commercials, clatter and concerts the atmosphere to properly use the library disapates: the enjoyment terminates. In a world of distractions and unending, relentless advertising the library should be a calm sentinel in our city of industry. Alas it seems the bastion has fallen - defeated from the inside.

I used to be amused by the fact the loudest people in the library - and I mean to the point of bellowing - were always the staff. That seems a fond memory now.


At 14/6/06 8:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the good old days eh! Back before kids went to museums or the library except on school trips, and when they knew how to behave in them too, otherwise they got a caning.


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